Evaluation means, er, evaluation

13 January 2009

For some reason, this particular topic has reared its head twice in the past few days, so I thought I'd set the record straight about what we mean by the evaluation edition (or trial-run as many call it) of DXperience.

First of all, and most important, the evaluation edition comes with its own clauses in the EULA (End-User License Agreement):

If the SOFTWARE COMPONENT PRODUCT(S) you have obtained is marked as a "TRIAL" or "EVALUATION," you may install one copy of the SOFTWARE COMPONENT PRODUCT(S) for testing purposes for a period of 30 calendar days from the date of installation ("Evaluation Period"). Upon expiration of the Evaluation Period, the SOFTWARE COMPONENT PRODUCT(S) must be uninstalled and all copies destroyed.


Developer End User MAY NOT REDISTRIBUTE any SOFTWARE COMPONENT PRODUCT(s) files if using an evaluation, trial, Not for Resale, or demo version of the SOFTWARE COMPONENT PRODUCT(s).

So, the intent of our evaluation is for the potential customer to test our product with their scenarios to make sure that our product works as expected and, more importantly, can be used within their environment. 30 calendar days is well sufficient for that purpose. Of course, in order that they gain the best results from their testing, we provide support to the potential customer during that period.

Marking off the check listThe way I envisage potential customers doing an evaluation is much like an interview for a position. First of all, I would guess that there might be two or three candidate products in the running. The evaluator will have worked out a list of scenarios that they'll want to test for all candidates, a list of questions, if you like. It's very unlikely that all candidates will pass all questions adequately, so there must be some measure of success ("this question is nice to be answered correctly, but I won't lose sleep over it if no candidate can, but this one is imperative to get right").

Next up, there must be some period of uninterrupted time to set up the evaluations. Each candidate product will have a different API, and so you must spend the time to understand each sufficiently well to get over the basic learning curve. The intent here is to see whether each candidate will work in your environment. You may have, for example, a data layer that cannot be changed. Can each product work with this data layer? Similarly, you may have a particular error-notification system: are the products flexible enough to work with this subsystem? And so on.

The intent here is not to fully plug-in each product into your solution, but to gain an understanding of each candidate's strengths and weaknesses. Part of that understanding is also an evaluation of each product's support system, which is why we gladly provide such support. We want you to buy our products after all.

At the end of the evaluation period you should have your original list of questions with a set of answers against each. A check list, if you like. Using this, you should be able to work out which product would suit you best. You will certainly not know everything about each product, you will certainly not have learnt every fancy little feature and API wrinkle. But you will know enough to make a purchase decision.

So, good evaluations involve real work, sustained over a period of a couple of weeks, well within the 30 day limit. Our evaluations are not for the "play with it a couple of hours here and there, with gaps of a week or more in between" approach. I really don't see how that kind of evaluation helps you or the vendor.

Another approach I've heard of is the "I'm plugging your evaluation product completely into my application, and then I'll buy" method. This is in complete violation of our EULA on several fronts: generally this process will take longer than 30 days, the evaluation edition is being used for development and not testing, and also typically there's more than one developer working on the project. (And of course, the final purchase usually involves a single license.)

I've also heard of the "We only need to buy one or two licenses for the maintenance phase" assumption, the product being developed by a larger team using the evaluation edition. This is so in violation of our EULA, I don't know where to start.

So, we welcome potential customers to try out DXperience. We'd love for you to come to the conclusion that our product is the best choice for you, so we'll help you along the way with our support team. We believe that the best way to do the evaluation is as I described above. And if you do find that, for one reason or another, that you need more time, just email me or support. We'll certainly consider your request.

But please don't take advantage of our evaluation policy. I really don't want to get to the point where we have to put drop-dead dates in our evaluation editions.

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